Fifty Years Of Providing A Compassionate Hand Up To Those In Need




Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM) was organized in 1969 with an ecumenical vision to maximize services to people in need.

Rev. Banks Shepherd, pastor of Bethany and Smyrna United Churches of Christ, sparked the founding of ECCCM. A phone call came to him from an unsuspecting woman needing a new refrigerator and cook stove. On a hunch, he called other area ministers to learn that the same woman had already received these appliances. Clearly, the combined efforts of Christians throughout Eastern Catawba County could eliminate duplication and accomplish far more than individual congregations.

A meeting was held on March 25, 1969 at Grace Reformed United Church of Christ to organize what would become ECCCM. Besides Rev. Shepherd, the committee included local pastors Fletcher Andrews, Oscar Burwick, John Lindler, Lester Roof Jr., Edouard Taylor and Andrew Wilkerson and lay leaders Roy Duncan, Floy Hewitt, Frances Reinhardt and Ray Eugene Sigmon

Rev. Banks Shepherd

The meaning of the name was very important: Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry: Eastern Catawba – this defines the geographic scope that would be served and would not conflict with CCM of Greater Hickory; Cooperative – defines the voluntary way of operating for the most efficient and effective use of funds. ECCCM seeks to involve any Christian congregation that believes in our mission; Ministry – identifies what we are all about.   

Articles of incorporation were filed in 1970 with Grace Gaither, Rev. Donald George, Howard Kelly, Rev. Shepherd and Rev. Wilkerson as directors.

St. James Lutheran Church of Newton was the first congregation to officially join ECCCM. Tutoring of school children became one of the first missions. A prison ministry was soon added in association with CCM of Greater Hickory. Another early project was Love-N-Care to assist working parents who could not afford day care.


During the inaugural meeting on October 12, 1969, fifteen churches signed up and committed to support this cooperative benevolent ministry for the welfare of the community. Those churches are:

  1. St. James Lutheran Church (the first church to declare intent)
  2. Abernethy United Methodist Church
  3. Bethany United Church of Christ
  4. Beth Eden Lutheran Church
  5. Smyrna United Church of Christ (now independent)
  6. First Presbyterian Church
  7. First United Methodist Church – Conover
  8. First United Methodist Church – Newton
  9. Friendship United Methodist Church
  10. Grace United Church of Christ
  11. Trinity United Church of Christ
  12. McQueens Chapel United Methodist Church
  13. Mays Chapel United Methodist Church
  14. Mt. View United Methodist Church
  15. Thomas Chapel AME Zion Church


ECCCM’s first headquarters was established when Rev. William McInnis, a retired minister, was appointed as volunteer coordinator. His office was housed in the former nurses’ residence on East O Street where ECCCM operations would remain for the next 30 years.

The 1970s ushered in a clothing closet, a fuel (emergency) fund, assistance with rent & utilities, a counseling ministry, emergency food distribution center and the beginning of the county’s Head Start program for children.


ECCCM’s first paid staff member came in 1975 with the hiring of Mrs. Doris Fish as executive secretary who would become the first executive director and serve in that position until 1998 at Mrs. Fish’s retirement. Many of the programs, which began under Mrs. Fish, continue to be a vital part of ECCCM’s ministry.

The ministry has been blessed from its beginning with great board members and the volunteers have been a life line for the ministry. Hundreds of people continue to volunteer each year and provide vital services in areas that would otherwise go unmet.

Mrs. Doris Fish


In 1978, with 24 member churches, ECCCM absorbed the Maiden Cooperative Christian Association. Long-time volunteers Aaron and Novella Smith, who had volunteered to organize the clothing closet, a relationship which would prove to become one of the most enduring volunteer commitments to ECCCM. They were honored by WBTV with a Nine Who Care award in 1982. Adult basic education, CROP Walk, the countywide Christmas Bureau and Meals-on-Wheels were introduced in the 1980s.

With its treasury depleted in the wake of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the community rallied with a host of benefits including “I Survived Hugo” t-shirt sales, WNNC’s “Freeze Out Hunger” promotion, and a fashion show and golf tournament which became annual events.

Elizabeth Setzer became ECCCM’s first female president in 1990. At the ministry’s 25th anniversary in 1994, there were 500 individual contributors and 52 member churches.


The effects of the 2001 recession and expanded services stretched resources to the maximum. Clearly, a larger, more appropriate facility was needed. The ECCCM Board of Directors began a study to see if it was feasible to expand the Center on O Street. When this was deemed unacceptable the Board began to search in the community to find a vacant building for the ministry, but no suitable facility was found. The Catawba County Commissioners were approached and agreed to provide three acres of land in south Newton for a new facility.

The Board decided unanimously to build a new home for ECCCM and launch the “Building for the Future” capital campaign. Jerome W. Bolick, W. Stine Isenhower and James M. Templeton co-chaired the effort to raise more than $1 million in pledges and donations.


Groundbreaking was held on June 28, 2005. Exactly five months later, on Monday, November 28, 2005 ECCCM opened for business in the new 9,400 square foot center. At that time, the ministry was providing 135 family services per day (26,000 per year). This building was dedicated on Sunday, January 15, 2006

Capital Campagin Committee

In conjunction with the capital campaign, Tim Elliott of Elliott Design in Newton designed a new logo for the ministry.

Organized in 1969, Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry, Inc. is one of two Catawba County Christian Ministries.  The ECCCM received its NC non-profit status under the IRS Section 501(c)3 in 1971; all gifts to ECCCM are tax deductible to the fullest extent as provided under the law.  It is located at 245 East N Street in Newton. 

The membership consists of 80 supportive congregations from all denominations in Eastern Catawba County.  “Working together, we are able to accomplish that which we could not do individually.”  To maintain contact with its member churches a monthly newsletter is provided to all the member and non-member churches as well as an annual church conference where all members and visitors are encouraged to attend to receive updated information on ECCCM.


In May 2010, recognizing the growth of ECCCM’s ministry, the Board of Directors called Rev. Robert Silber as the first full time Executive Director of ECCCM. At that time, ECCCM was providing crisis services to an average of 90 persons per day. Rev. Silber had served on the Capital Campaign for the new ministry building, and on the ECCCM Board of Directors including President of the Board. In addition he has also served United Methodist congregations in Iredell, Catawba, and Cabarrus Counties. ECCCM has been serving the people of Catawba County since 1969 and Rev. Silber becomes the third executive director in the ministry’s forty-one year history.

Under Rev. Silber’s leadership, ECCCM has begun expanding its scope of crisis ministries as well as developing a number of community partnerships to enable holistic services and greater efficiency. The Backpack for Kids Program began in July, 2010, in partnership with Catawba County DSS, providing food to at-risk children experiencing food insecurity; this program was later replaced with the Student Hunger Prevention Program. The Crisis Assistance Coaching Program

Rev. Robert C. Silber

(CACP) launched in January, 2012, in partnership with The Family Guidance Center, a program to provide education and assistance to eliminate crisis assistance situations from reoccurring. After months of development, in January, 2011 ECCCM began using the CHIN database and moved to a paperless office, saving resources of paper and copier costs. With greater efficiency and due to the aftermath of the great recession, ECCCM was serving up to 150 persons per day with emergency crisis assistance. In January, 2013, ECCCM entered into another partnership with Catawba County DSS with an early childhood food insecurity program.

2014 began a time of critical review for all programs, ensuring that ECCCM is serving the current needs within the community with efficiency and efficacy. To achieve a systemic approach to student hunger, ECCCM’s Hunger Prevention Program was expanded to serve the families of Newton-Conover City School system students that are experiencing food insecurity issues. A twelve-month program that coincides with the school year, adequate commodities are provided to the family. In the fall of 2015, the now Student Hunger Prevention Program was expanded to include all Newton-Conover City Schools and all Catawba County Schools, grades K-12 with a 12-month program.

With further development of hunger programs, consideration was made for those who are homeless, providing appropriate commodities for the transient on a weekly basis.

The Crisis Assistance Coaching Program is providing a critical impact on the lives of crisis recipients. Additional case management staff is being moved into the program as basic financial literacy education, debt reduction, goal setting, menu preparation and menu creation strategies are combined with job search and resume assistance. Through this effective program, crisis clients are learning essential life skills and returning to self-reliance. 

2015 saw a realignment of staff positions as Kristal Manning was named as Assistant Director, working with the Executive Director in the day-to-day operations. All interviewers were trained and transitioned to Case Managers, assigned to clients and fully managing their case history. With continued growth and activity in the food pantry and thrift store, the Director of Food Pantry Operations oversees these operations, which includes warehouse management and volunteer coordination.



The original logo was a simple creation to denote the core principal of ECCCM: God and the Trinity. This logo’s triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – which is the core of Christian belief. Atop of the triangle is the cross, which in itself is symbolic with the horizontal cross beam stretching across the timeline of humanity and the vertical upright connecting humanity with the divinity of God. The words under the logo, A Service to Others, reflects the reason for ECCCM’s creation and existence.


In the early 2000s it was clearly evident that ECCCM has outgrown the building that housed its operations and a new building was desperately needed. During the building campaign Tim Elliott of Elliott Designs, was contacted to help with artwork and a new logo. Taking the triangle and Cross into consideration, Tim created a new logo, the first with color, to represent ECCCM.

In the center of the logo is the Cross, the strength and center of ECCCM. The ecclesiastical color of green provides a foundation and in the center are concentric circles that represent the churches of our community, both large and small, and individuals who stand ready to help neighbors in need. This is also symbolic of Fresnel lens of a lighthouse, as ECCCM serves as a circle of light to those in need. Finally, spelling out the entire name, Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry was desired to communicate to the community who ECCCM is, as awareness campaigns were underway for a major building campaign.


On the dawn of its 50th Anniversary, Tim Elliott was once again contacted to help update ECCCM’s logo for its fiftieth year. Tim’s task was simple: combine all the important elements of past logos, honoring the integrity of his work fourteen years earlier, for a modern update to carry ECCCM into the future.

The Hands in Need logo, developed by Tim Elliott of Elliott Designs in Newton incorporates two elements from our previous insignia:

  • The cross, which emphasizes our Christian mission, centered on Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit.

  • The waves of circles, inspired by the Fresnel lens of a lighthouse, symbolize ECCCM, a beacon to those in crisis.

  • The concentric circles represent the churches of our community, both large and small, and individuals who stand ready to help neighbors in need.

  • The larger hand, reaching up, symbolizes the Hand of God, embracing all of humanity, and further symbolizes the hand up that ECCCM provides to those in need.

  • The smaller hand, reaching out, is the hand of the one in need.

  • The cross, which symbolizes the core of ECCCM’s foundation in God.

Hands are important: As humanity reaches out, God is there to receive. Humanity reaches to God through the Cross. As depicted in the logo, one cannot approach God without the cross. Abstractly, the circles become hands above and below–those who give, those who receive. The ecclesiastical color of green, harmonizes well with the blue, often used in Christian contexts to connote hope and good health.

The result, as portrayed by Elliott Design, is The Faith of Fifty Years.

The work of ECCCM is supervised by an eighteen member Board of Directors appointed from the community and supportive churches.  The day-to-day operations are under the supervision of its Executive Director, Rev. Robert Silber, (828) 465-1702